We've gone from living very close to the Mexican border to living not far from the Canadian border. So we went to Canada yesterday. We were at Niagara Falls, and there's a Costco about 20 minutes across the border, so we decided, why not?
Even with all the border crossings we've done, I was a little nervous about this one. It was our first land border crossing involving the US, and certainly my first one being the driver of the car. Fortunately, we made it. The border guard let us in even though we had a pretty sketchy story.
Canadian Border Guard: Where are you from?
Me: Uuuuuummmmmm, New York? [It was literally the first time anyone has asked me that question since we moved and I was caught off guard. I'm sure it sounded like I was lying.]
CBG: Is this your car?
CBG: Why is it from Arizona?
Me: [D'oh!] Oh, we just moved to New York, from Arizona.
CBG: [Examining our crazy Arab-stamped passports and Magdalena's Vermont birth certificate.] Hmm...and what is the purpose of your visit?
Me: You know, just hang out, maybe go to Costco.
"Just hang out"?!?!? How incoherent can you get? At Israel's borders, they disarm you by using exclusively young, female border agents to lull you into a sense of ease and comfort. Canada has apparently decided that clean-cut, military-ish, vaguely handsome males will best deter people planning on engaging in illicit activities in Canada. Despite the fact that I failed the basic Canada entrance exam, he eventually let us through, though it was probably against his better judgment.
Once we were in, Jeremy and I played that most entertaining of games where you make broad, sweeping generalizations about the citizens of a country based on your first five minutes there. We discovered that, as a rule, Canadians run red lights, speed atrociously on the QEW, and are pasty-skinned.
Their road signs were the cutest things ever, though. We passed through a work zone on our way to Costco and we kept seeing signs like this:
I just loved the enthusiasm of the "New!" sticker. It was like something you'd see on a cereal box in the grocery store: "New! Now with choco-bits!" or whatever, except I guess it's "New! Now with more left-turn lane!" They also had polite signs that said things like "Seat belt use is compulsory." Unlike in America, where our signs are in all caps and just say "USE SEAT BELT," or in Utah, "CLICK IT OR TICKET."
The Costco in St. Catherines (missing apostrophe theirs) was great. We loaded up on weird Canadian versions of familiar brands and then had a lunch/dinner at the food court. I meant to take a picture of the menu there, because it is different and exotic, but somehow I forgot. Jeremy decided on the Montreal Melt, though it was a close call between that and the FRIES WITH GRAVY. What a bizarre parallel universe. We finished it off with an ice cream cone, which is real ice cream at the Canada Costco instead of fat-free frozen yogurt. It was dang good.
Anyway, we made it back through the border into America with a little more finesse because Jeremy and I rehearsed our story before it was our turn to talk to the guard. We decided to say "We just moved to New York," instead of claiming to be from there, and if he asked why we moved, I was to say "My husband got a job at Cornell," and NOT give away that it had anything to do with Arabic. The border guard ended up asking us both of those questions and the Cornell mention got an appreciative nod.
About two dozen toll booths later, we arrived home in Ithaca. Even though we've driven through quite a bit of New York by now, I keep forgetting about the toll booths. We spent around $12 just on tolls today. It reminds me of what Beirut must have been like during their civil war - people just throw up checkpoints willy-nilly everywhere and you have to bribe your way through. I swear a couple of times it was just like, "Here is a bridge. Now give us a dollar!"
So the lessons of the day are: get your story straight before crossing into Canada, mention Cornell at every chance, and whatever you do, don't miss out on the ice cream cones at a Canadian Costco.